Photo by Ian Maginess
At an event organised by the Centre for Cross Border Studies, held in the Armagh Public Library on June 15th, Professor Frances Ruane delivered the inaugural annual lecture in honour of the late Sir George Quigley. The lecture explored an issue addressed by Sir George on many occasions, namely, the importance of competitiveness for the two economies on the island of Ireland.
Professor Ruane explored the approaches being taken towards competitiveness on the island of Ireland. Professor Ruane stated that until recently the two parts of the island have adopted completely different approaches to competitiveness. The Republic of Ireland embraced national competiveness and put it centre stage in the policy process over 20 years ago.
By contrast, according to Professor Ruane, Northern Ireland is relatively late in exploring systematically its global competitiveness and what is needed for productivity levels to be increased. A first look at the issue was undertaken by the Economic Advisory Group (EAG) in 2013, and the EAG will shortly publish new NI competitiveness indicators. Speaking about the new indicators, Professor Ruane said:
‘They represent a first and important step in providing the North with the basis for looking more objectively and systematically at its relative economic strengths and weaknesses. If taken seriously by the Northern Ireland Executive, the challenges raised by the indicators should contribute to better and more transparent policy making. It will also help to ensure that scarce government resources are deployed where they can have greatest impact on the welfare of the people of Northern Ireland’.
Using data collected by Ulster University to compare Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Professor Ruane said:
“On many, but not all indicators, the Republic of Ireland’s competitiveness performance exceeds that of Northern Ireland. Both jurisdictions face challenges in building up their productivity performance so that they can become more globally competitive. The significant budgetary transfersfrom Westminster have allowed the North to enjoy a standard of living way above that possible from its own productivity. In a tighter budgetary environment, reducing this competitiveness gap is essential if living standards are to be maintained or improved.”